Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ramesh Ponnuru on the sources, and reality of the Gender Wage Gap:
Economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth cites a 2005 study by economists June O’Neill and Dave O’Neill, which found that for the most part “the gender gap is attributable to choices made by women concerning the amount of time and energy to devote to a career.” They continue: “There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.”

In addition to being more likely to seek part-time work, women are also more likely to have gaps in their employment history and to enter lower-paying fields. The consulting company Consad, in a 2009 report for the Labor Department, found that these factors account for most of the pay gap. Correct for them, and men make only 5 percent to 7 percent more than women for the same work.

Even the American Association of University Women, in a recent report playing up the pay gap, conceded that 5 percent is a reasonable estimate of the difference between men’s and women’s wages that cannot be explained by choice of occupation, employment history and the like.

Not even that smaller gap can be attributed wholly to employer discrimination. Lawson, although she favors “legislative solutions,” also writes that women are less likely than men to drive hard bargains in salary negotiations. If true, that would explain part of the gap, as well.

To say that women’s choices result in their being paid less, on average, than men is not to deny that unfair social conditions may constrain those choices. Perhaps men should do more of the work of running households and raising children, and boys should be brought up with that expectation. Perhaps child care should be made more affordable. Perhaps efforts should be made to make sure college women aren’t being steered toward majors that won’t prepare them for lucrative careers.

Carrie Lukas, who has written often about the pay gap for the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, says “it’s a mistake to default to the idea that it’s all discrimination.” She agrees with Lawson, however, that women should be less reticent about demanding higher pay: “As parents of daughters we can make a difference in that.”

Monday, January 28, 2013

A common defense of hefty green energy subsidies is "Our clean-energy industry . . . has to fight uphill against the oil subsidies." Well, the facts show a different story:
A Texas Comptroller’s study in 2006 found that federal clean-energy subsidies amounted to 4.5 percent of total consumer spending on those sources, while oil-and-gas and coal subsidies clocked in at just 0.83 percent. That makes renewables more than five times more subsidized than nonrenewable sources. The single largest recipient of subsidies when the study was conducted was not the gargantuan oil-and-gas industry but that swing-state sop, ethanol. The nominal costs of renewable subsidies totaled 83 percent of the dollars allowed to fossil-fuel companies, despite the latter industry being magnitudes larger than the former.

And that was before both oilman President Bush and President Obama dramatically expanded the subsidies available to renewable-energy producers...

By the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s reckoning, there are only three major exemptions granted to fossil-fuel producers: the “expensing of exploration and development costs for oil and natural gas” ($800 million), the “option to expense 50 percent of qualified property used to refine liquid fuels” ($800 million), and the “option to expense investment costs on the basis of gross income rather than on production” ($900 million). (There are also $600 million, by their calculation, of other miscellaneous subsidies.)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The much vaunted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently released it's new rules for mortgages, but Megan McArdle points out some significant caveats:
1. This will probably make it harder to get a mortgage, particularly if you are poorer.

2. Nonetheless, it will not do that much to prevent default Arnold Kling, a former Freddie Mac economist who has long been my favorite source on housing finance, points out that debt-to-income ratios aren't a very good predictor of default risk.
As I point out in a new essay, mortgage defaults are driven largely by the borrower’s loss of equity. Thus, the most important risk factor at the time the loan is made is the size of the down payment. The rules ignore that. Instead, the focus in the borrower’s debt/income ratio, which is far and away the least predictive of the major factors used in predicting default (the down payment is most useful, followed by credit score and then by loan purpose, although the effects of these variables interact with one another so that it is not so easy to rank-order their importance).

4. The new rules tell you a lot about how the CFPB thinks The new rules are part of the CFPB's drive to create "qualified" mortgages: low-risk, easy to understand products that will prevent consumers from getting themselves into trouble. Their mandate is not to protect banks (and savers) from default; it's to protect borrowers from themselves. That's why their approach is focused on the household income statement.
But, most troubling:
3. The government can continue writing mortgages under the old rules
This is especially important as the GSEs have already cost the taxpayers $180 Billion, and the FHA may require a bailout:
As private-financing options have disappeared, the role of the FHA has grown. Its market share has increased to about 30 percent today from 3-4 percent in 2007. That’s because the agency is now practically the only game in town, accepting borrowers with down payments of as low as 3.5 percent. As the last few years have made clear, sizable down payments -- or “skin in the game” -- are the key to avoiding defaults in the near term and to achieving a stable housing market in the long term.

So how has the FHA fared financially in serving borrowers with low down payments? As the housing bubble burst in 2007, and the number of mortgage-related defaults started to climb, the FHA’s capital reserves declined to $3.5 billion from $22 billion.

This means that the FHA is on the verge of requiring a bailout to support its outstanding mortgage guarantees, which are projected to exceed $1 trillion in 2011.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

To improve national transportation spending, eliminate the gas tax:
The basic reason the present system isn’t working is that there is no longer a consensus in Congress on what a national transportation program should be. From 1956 to 1991, the objective was to build the interstate highway system. Then, the focus shifted to highway maintenance and transit. At this point, local interests became more important and the national mission faded. Absent a grand policy, earmarks kept every congressman invested in a big transportation bill; but these are no more.

As a result, “getting back our share” has become the key objective, so that every state now gets as much (or more) money in transportation grants as it pays in federal gas taxes. Along with the money, the federal government issues various rules for spending it, many of which require the states to put in some of their own money, too. It’s common to hear state transportation officials say that the feds provide 25 percent of the money and 75 percent of the hassle.

Eliminating the federal role would enhance state autonomy and streamline decision making. What’s more exciting is that it would also lead to more and better spending on transportation.
Megan McArdle on Media Bias:
Bias matters not because liberals deliberately slant their stories, but because they are much more likely to interrogate the facts that contradict their ideological beliefs, than the ones that support them. When they come across an uncomfortable fact, they'll go out of their way to figure out why it isn't really true. When they come across a fact that confirms what they believe, they'll be more likely to accept it at face value.

I'm not claiming that liberals do this more than conservatives (I think that being human, they're equally prone to this phenomenon)--only that in the media, liberal bias is mostly what matters, because the media is overwhelmingly somewhere to the left of the American center. Even if you have a conservative reporter prone to insufficient interrogation of convenient facts, those same facts are going to set off alarm bells with his editors, who are quite likely to question the whole story.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Robert Stacy McCain:
Watching it, I noticed that Michael Moore wasn’t really trying to explain what caused the mortgage meltdown. No, he was telling his audience who (and what) to blame for the mortgage meltdown.

A preference for blame over understanding is a hallmark of prejudice. There’s not really that much difference in hating “the rich” and hating any other group of people.

Using loaded language about “greed” and labels like “Corporate America” isn’t any less prejudicial than talking about how Mexicans are sneaking over the border to take away American jobs. As a matter of fact, Democrats spent a lot of time the past year talking about “outsourcing” and “shipping jobs overseas,” which is really just another method of xenophobic blame-shifting: The Foreigners! Are Taking! Our Jobs!

Why don’t we recognize the language of the Left as expressions of prejudice? Why is demonization of ”the rich” accepted as a substitute for actual understanding of how the economy works?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The problem with modern High School:
This Industrial Era approach (public schools were organized in the 19th century on a Prussian model, explicitly to produce obedient, orderly workers) had advantages. But it also had disadvantages. Like interchangeable parts in an industrial machine, students were treated alike, regardless of their individual characteristics and needs. Square peg, meet round hole.

Putting kids together and sorting by age also created that dysfunctional creature, the “teenager.” Once, teen-agers weren’t so much a demographic as adults-in-training. They worked, did farm chores, watched children and generally functioned in the real world. They got status and recognition for doing these things well, and they got shame and disapproval for doing them badly.

But once they were segregated by age in public schools, teens looked to their peers for status and recognition instead of to society at large.
Amen. But, there are some interesting options on the horizon. Read the whole thing.
The Environmental Protection Agency:
Why would the EPA insist on regulating stormwater, which it has no authority over, instead of simply regulating sediment? After all, it has written rules for sediment literally thousands of times. That insistence makes no sense. But it does look like part of a larger pattern.

Last spring, the Supreme Court ruled against the agency in the case of Mike and Chantell Sackett. The Sacketts owned a piece of land, a little larger than half an acre, in a growing lakefront development in Idaho. They were building a vacation home on the spot when the EPA declared it might be a wetland and ordered them to cease construction, and restore the land to its prior state or face fines of up to $75,000 a day. The agency decreed that the Sackettshad no right to challenge the order in court.

The Supreme Court unanimously call that bunk. It’s not easy to get Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the same page, but the EPA managed to do so. The agency also drew the wrath of The Washington Post, which editorialized that “The EPA Is Earning a Reputation for Abuse.” The editorial began by condemning the now-infamous remarks of now-former EPA administrator Al Armendariz, who compared his enforcement philosophy to Roman crucifixions: “They’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.”

Troubling stories about the EPA just keep piling up. In Texas, the agency went after Range Resources Corp. for allegedly polluting two wells. The company racked up more than $4 million in fees defending itself before the EPA grudgingly admitted it had no proof Range Resources had contaminated anything.

In July, the federal district court in D.C. ruled that the EPA had overstepped its bounds regarding Appalachian coal operations. That ruling followed another concluding the EPA had no business revoking a waste-disposal permit, issued by the Bush administration, for a West Virginia mine. Judge Amy Berman Jackson—an Obama appointee—called the agency’s action “a stunning power for the EPA to arrogate to itself,” and accused the agency of “magical thinking.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nate Silver on What is Driving Growth in Government spending:

Can we please stop the rhetoric about our budget problems being driven by "putting two wars on the credit card"?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Forbes: "Assault Weapon is Just a PR Stunt Meant To Fool The Gullible"

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Greenpeace co-founder points out the murderous results from the War on Science:
According to the World Health Organization between 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind every year due to vitamin A deficiency, half of whom die within a year of becoming blind. Millions of other people suffer from various debilitating conditions due to the lack of this essential nutrient.

Golden Rice is a genetically modified form of rice that, unlike conventional rice, contains beta-Carotene in the rice kernel. Beta-Carotene is converted to vitamin A in humans and is important for eyesight, the immune system, and general good health. Swiss scientist and humanitarian Dr. Ingo Potrykus and his colleagues developed Golden Rice in 1998. It has been demonstrated in numerous studies that golden rice can eliminate vitamin A deficiency.

Greenpeace and its allies have successfully blocked the introduction of golden rice for over a decade, claiming it may have “environmental and health risks” without ever elaborating on what those risks might be.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Today is 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation. Happy 2013.
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